A friend complained that his German students would use "possibility" most of the time, whereas he would prefer "opportunity" in most cases. So we are wondering whether there is any rule on when to use which. Suggestions?
Thanks in advance:
IK
1 2
A friend complained that his German students would use "possibility" most of the time, whereas he would prefer "opportunity" in most cases. So we are wondering whether there is any rule on when to use which. Suggestions?

I'm glad to see this question, because it's a phenomenon I've noticed for ages and never seen raised. It's not as if German doesn't have the appropriate words Möglichkeit and Gelegenheit respectively. Is it some flaw in a German-English dictionary, which translates them both as "possibility"? No there must be more to it than that.

Matti
A friend complained that his German students would use "possibility" most of the time, whereas he would prefer "opportunity" in most cases. So we are wondering whether there is any rule on when to use which. Suggestions?

The Dutch would say that "possibility" is "mogelijkheid" and "opportunity" is "gelegenheid," and that's exactly what our German-English dictionary shows, adjusting the spelling. Is that not enough to convey the difference? Perhaps there are some additional subtleties in how those words are actually used in German.

There is overlap between "possibility" and "opportunity," but an "opportunity" is nearly always for something good an opportunity to advance your career, to meet someone you admire, to solve a problem.

"Opportunity knocks only once" is supposed to convey that there is only a short moment in which you must act, in order to take advantage of, or bring about, its benefits. Quite a bit like a "chance."

Best Donna Richoux
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Bubble filted:
A friend complained that his German students would use "possibility" most of the time, whereas he would prefer "opportunity" in most cases. So we are wondering whether there is any rule on when to use which.

Beware the word "opportunity"; it's becoming a euphemism for "problem"..r
Bubble filted:

A friend complained that his German students would use "possibility" ... whether there is any rule on when to use which.

Beware the word "opportunity"; it's becoming a euphemism for "problem"..r

And thus, in business circles, we have the "service opportunity." It means you've made a mistake, and fixing the mistake is an "opportunity" to serve the customer. When no negative terms are used, even huge mistakes can be viewed in a positive manner, and everyone's life is a bit more pleasant. Or so it is said. (The opinions of ex-employees who created too many "opportunities" may differ.)
Maria Conlon
Bubble filted: Beware the word "opportunity"; it's becoming a euphemism for "problem"..r

And thus, in business circles, we have the "service opportunity." It means you've made a mistake, and fixing the mistake ... a bit more pleasant. Or so it is said. (The opinions of ex-employees who created too many "opportunities" may differ.)

Naah, they were given a career-change opportunity.
Look for the silver lining ...

Skitt (in Hayward, California)
www.geocities.com/opus731/
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A friend complained that his German students would use "possibility"most ... there is any rule on when to use which. Suggestions?

The Dutch would say that "possibility" is "mogelijkheid" and "opportunity" is "gelegenheid," and that's exactly what our German-English dictionary shows, ... you must act, in order to take advantage of, or bring about, its benefits. Quite a bit like a "chance."

From a post I made to alt.english.usage , replying to Bubble/IK:
(begin quote from Usenet post)
There doesn't appear to be much overlap between the meanings of the words:

From *Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary* at
www.m-w.com
(quote)
1 : the condition or fact of being possible
2 archaic : one's utmost power, capacity, or ability
3 : something that is possible
4 : potential or prospective value usually used in plural
(end quote)
(quote)
1 : a favorable juncture of circumstances

2 : a good chance for advancement or progress

(end quote)
Looking into the matter further, I did find some overlap in meaning, involving the German word "Chance.":
From The Collins Large German Dictionary at
http://www.wordreference.com/de/Translation.asp?ende=possibility
(quote)
the possibility of doing something die Möglichkeit or Chance, etw zu tun

(end quote)
(quote)
job with real possibilities eine Stelle mit echten Möglichkeiten or Chancen
(end quote)
http://www.wordreference.com/de/translation.asp?ende=opportunity
(quote)
( chance to better oneself ) Chance f ; Möglichkeit f opportunities for promotion Aufstiegsmöglichkeiten or -chancen plural equality of opportunity Chancengleichheit f
(end quote)
http://www.wordreference.com/de/en/translation.asp?deen=chance
(quote)
jdm eine letzte Chance geben to give somebody one last chance

(end quote)
A person might say "I'm going to give you one last chance" but I don't think it likely that he would say "I'm going to give you one last opportunity." However, he might say "I'm going to give you one last opportunity to get it right" as well as "I'm going to give you one last chance to get it right." So at the same time your friend is teaching his students about the meaning of "possibility" and "opportunity," he should teach them about the meaning of the English word "chance" and how to translate the German word "Chance," because that looks like it might be at the root of the problem.

(end quote from Usenet post)

Raymond S. Wise
Minneapolis, Minnesota USA
E-mail: mplsray @ yahoo . com
Maria Conlon filted:
Beware the word "opportunity"; it's becoming a euphemism for "problem"..r

And thus, in business circles, we have the "service opportunity." It means you've made a mistake, and fixing the mistake ... a bit more pleasant. Or so it is said. (The opinions of ex-employees who created too many "opportunities" may differ.)

When no negative terms are used, nobody gets blamed, even when it would be a good thing to find out who's responsible for all the "opportunities"...even if you don't intend to punish them, you still may want to put them where they can do no further harm...official policy at my place of business is "don't point fingers; determine root causes"...kind of hard to do both when the real root cause is "Joe X is a programmeraster"..
The alternative to assigning blame is the situation from Dilbert in which employees are rewarded in proportion to the number of things they fix, even when those same employees are responsible for creating the things that needed fixing in the first place...(cue Wally's jubilant "I'm going to code myself a minivan!" upon figuring out the implications)...r
Maria Conlon filted:

And thus, in business circles, we have the "service opportunity." ... opinions of ex-employees who created too many "opportunities" may differ.)

In my office we have the phrase "opportunity to excel." It has taken the place of and means "*** detail."
(Apologies if this duplicates something earlier. I had to delete about a thousand postings unread upon returning from Thanksgiving elsewhere.)

Bob Lieblich
Who has flubbed many an opportunity to excel (and lived to tell the tale)
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